In 1959, Carl Jung first popularized the idea of archetypes—”universal images that have existed since the remotest times.” He posited that every person is a blend of these 12 basic personalities. Ever since then, authors have been applying this idea to fictional characters, combining the different archetypes to come up with interesting new versions. The result is a sizable pool of character tropes that we see from one story to another.
Archetypes and tropes are popular storytelling elements because of their familiarity. Upon seeing them, readers know immediately who they’re dealing with and what role the nerd, dark lord, femme fatale, or monster hunter will play. As authors, we need to recognize the commonalities for each trope so we can write them in a recognizable way and create a rudimentary sketch for any character we want to create.
But when it comes to characters, no one wants just a sketch; we want a vibrant and striking cast full of color, depth, and contrast. Diving deeper into character creation is especially important when starting with tropes because the blessing of their familiarity is also a curse; without differentiation, the characters begin to look the same from story to story.
But no more. The Character Type and Trope Thesaurus allows you to outline the foundational elements of each trope while also exploring how to individualize them. In this way, you’ll be able to use historically tried-and-true character types to create a cast for your story that is anything but traditional.
DESCRIPTION: Imaginative and highly driven, these characters are the artists, inventors, and scientists who feel compelled to create something totally new and innovative. Their motivation may come from a desire to write a wrong, solve a problem, meet a need, fill a personal void, or simply provide fulfillment for themselves.
FICTIONAL EXAMPLES: Victor Frankenstein (Frankenstein), Willy Wonka (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Jo March (Little Women), Mozart (Amadeus), Zeus (Greek mythology)
COMMON STRENGTHS: Adventurous, Ambitious, Bold, Creative, Curious, Disciplined, Focused, Idealistic, Imaginative, Independent, Industrious, Inspirational, Intelligent, Meticulous
COMMON WEAKNESSES: Compulsive, Disorganized, Irresponsible, Manipulative, Oversensitive, Perfectionist, Possessive, Self-Indulgent, Stubborn, Uncooperative, Volatile, Workaholic
ASSOCIATED ACTIONS, BEHAVIORS, AND TENDENCIES
Being a visionary; imagining things that don’t yet exist
Thinking outside the box
Asking lots of questions
Being gifted in a given area (science, music, art, coding, etc.)
Using unconventional methods
Being highly disciplined where work is concerned
Making personal sacrifices to bring their vision to fruition
Recognizing failure as a necessary part of the process
Having a long-haul perspective; understanding that creation is a process that takes time
SITUATIONS THAT WILL CHALLENGE THEM
Encountering a creative block
Being unable to create (due to time constraints, social pressures, lack of resources, etc.)
A physical or mental challenge requiring medication that saps their creativity
TWIST THIS TROPE WITH A CHARACTER WHO…
Works well with others and values collaboration
Is incredibly talented but keeps their creations hidden from others
Is inspired by the act of creation itself and is unconcerned with the quality of their work
CLICHÉS TO AVOID
The tortured artist, plagued by their own demons
The creator who uses drugs to enhance their abilities
The mad scientist whose obsession has driven them insane
Other Type and Trope Thesaurus entries can be found here.
Need More Descriptive Help?
While this thesaurus is still being developed, the rest of our descriptive collection (16 unique thesauri and growing) is accessible through the One Stop for Writers THESAURUS database.
If you like, swing by and check out the video walkthrough for this site, and then give our Free Trial a spin.
Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.